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Transcript

2003

My Body, My Closet

2001

Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies

2005

Sins Invalid is Founded

2006

Road to Freedom Bus Tour

2006

Crip Theory

Rhetorics of Disability & Identity

2000 - Present

N. Jiménez Torres

ENC 3021

2013

A Scar is More Than a Wound

2012

Disability Day of Mourning

2014

Disability Visibility Project

2015

Deaf West Spring Awakening

2015

I'm Special & Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Rhetorics of Disability & Identity

2000 - Present

N. Jiménez Torres

ENC 3021

2020

Golem Girl: A Memoir

2020

Crip Camp

2020

2021

Between Two Kingdoms

2023

Sipping Dom Perigion Through a Straw

Rhetorics of Disability & Identity

2000 - Present

N. Jiménez Torres

ENC 3021

The Impact of COVID 19

Netflix's original documentary CRIP CAMP premiered in 2020, telling the story of Camp Jened which is historically marked as the origin of the disability rights movement in the 1970s and '80s, in which a collective of young disabled people organized themselves and began radically advocating for accessibility and justice for disabled care in the United States. It shows the reality of being young and disabled, providing an environment of experimentation, identity, and practicing ideas of radical activism. It's 2020 debut was particularly timely because it reminded the media that young people have always been the instigators of change in the U.S.

Netflix's Crip Camp

"Crip Camp is both a gripping look at the history of the disabled rights movement and a timely call to action, urging us to explore our own duty to fight for the dignity of all people." -Obama

I'm Special and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Actor and writer, Ryan O'Connel's 2015 memoir I'm Special and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves tells his story of coming to terms with his identity as a gay disabled man. He highlights his struggle with accepting his disability, talking about how even though he was born with CP, has a limp, and has always had what would be considered a 'visible' disability, he never felt connected to his disability. SPECIAL tells the story of O'Connell in his early twenties when he was hit by a car after moving to a new city. As he is rebuilding his life and meeting new people he erased cerebral palsy as part of his identity and told people that his limp was a result of his accident. The book observes the differences in social treatment of disability versus injury. It provides an alternate coming-of-age narrative that explores how being disabled can impact the process of discovering yourself. Ryan talks about the first time that he publicly wrote about his disability and the feelings of freedom and empowerment that followed. In 2020, a few years after its publication it picked up traction from Jim Parson's production company and was turned into a two-season Netflix series. Historic, in that it is one of the most notable examples of popular media that stars a queer, disabled protagonist.

"You can only really grow when you start being honest with yourself about who you are in the first place."

Founded in 2005, Sins Invalid is a performance and artistry-based activism group that advocates for the rights of queer, disabled, and people of color. Their work is centered on radical body liberation, challenging the ideas of what is 'normal' and acceptable and giving a platform for artists of all kinds to be able to share their stories. Sins Invalid is also dedicated to working against the demonization of queer and disabled sexuality and intimacy. Through their material and shows such as burlesque performances they show the audiences that being disabled is not inherently unsexy and that all forms of intimacy and relationships are beautiful and deserving of celebration and empowerment. In addition to their performance work, the company has an education initiative that provides workshops on making theatre and performance more accessible. As well as social justice education groups that work on spreading awareness on issues of socioeconomic justice within marginalized communities.

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Sins Invalid

An Unshamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility

Deaf West's Spring Awakening Revival Moves to Broadway

Founded in L.A. in the early '90s, Deaf West is a theatrical production company dedicated to intertwining theatricality, art, choreography, and ASL. Their casts and productions are made up of both deaf/HOH actors and creatives as well as hearing actors who are supported by interpreters. In 2015, their production of Spring Awakening, which opened in Los Angeles, gained a cult following for its concept and creative staging which led to its fall transfer to Broadway. Where a historic 25 cast members, many disabled and HOH, made their debut.

ACCLAIMS:

Ali Stroker becomes first wheelchair user on Broadway

Nominated for 2016 Best Revival of a Musical Tony Award

First Broadway production to provide interpreters for deaf-blind patrons.

Drama League Award-Winner for 'Unique Contribution to Theatre'

COVID-19 & DISABILITY JUSTICE

The 2020 COVID pandemic insighted a surge in disability advocacy and fighting for accessibility. Many activists highlighted that the struggles that became universal during COVID are the same struggles that disabled people had been facing for years and that now that they have been brought to public attention they can be handled not just in the scale of the pandemic, but for longterm accessibility. However, that is not what happened in MOST instances and the pandemic effectively brought to light the treatment of the disabled community. Where many people had the privilege of acting as if the pandemic was not a concern because it was 'only deadly if you are immunocompromised', disabled people were terrified and unable to leave their homes even as safety measures began to lift because of the attitude of the majority. In a 'post-pandemic' society the issues of accessibility and disability justice are more prevalent than ever and activists are fighting to capitalize on the mainstream attention to the issues before people move-on and forget about the people who continued to be impacted.

June 2015

In June of 2015, the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges protected marriage equality at a federal level. It was now legal for same-sex couples to get married in all fifty states.

Alice Wong's Disability Visibility Project

Alice Wong is a disabled activist and writer who has dedicated her career to amplifying disabled voices and fighting for access. Her publications include:

  • Year of the Tiger: An Activist's Life
  • Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People
  • Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century

"The Disability Visibility Project is an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disabled media and culture"

Learn more

in 2014, Wong began the process of founding the Disability Visibility Project with the intention of building a community for disabled people that allowed for intersectionality and the sharing of personal stories. Beyond that, the project is dedicated to activism and social justice efforts, both related to accessibility and to the protection of all marginalized identities. Many of the featured stories shared on the site highlight the challenges of identity as it is experienced through ability, physical appearance, race/ethnicity/culture, sexuality, etc. Intersectionality is a key feature in Wong's work. The Disability Visibility Project partners with a number of advocacy groups including

StoryCorps, a non-profit associated with NPR that

records & broadcasts diverse stories and documents them in the Library of Congress, to accomplish their goals.

In her essay, Hammer explores the complexities of intimacy through the lens of identity. By making connections between Riva Lehrer's 'Golem Girl Gets Lucky' and Leslie Feinberg's 'Stone Butch Blues' understands how members of marginalized communities are able to create intimacy and connection through shared experiences and finding safety, security, and refuge from social misconduct, oppression, and abuse. They exercise an idea of 'traumatic texture' which describes the phenomenon of creating intimacy and relationships due to shared experiences and trauma that occur in every day life. An idea that Hammer entertains in her writing is the fact that both the queer and disabled communities are groups of people who have lacked representation/been misrepresented in the media as beings who are asexual or whose sexuality is demonized or considered wrong/dirty/etc. Through that experience, people are able to find and form more secure and intimate relationships.

A Scar is More Than a Wound Rethinking Community & Intimacy Through Queer & Disability Theory

By Karen Hammer

"Through the blaming of internal and external, inside and outside, the home becomes not a place of blissful escape but one that is intertwined with the very public reality of abuse and violence. Home becomes an opportunity to welcome queerness and disability as containing 'infinite possibility' where relationships and bonds form against all odds"

Hammer, Karen. “A Scar is More Than a Wound: Rethinking Community and Intimacy Through Queer and Disability theory.” Rocky Mountain Review, vol. 68, no. 2, 2014, pp. 159–176, https://doi.org/10.1353/rmr.2014.0044

Riva Lehrer is a multidisciplinary artist and writer who has dedicated a significant portion of her career to creating portraits of both herself and other disabled creatives and activists. Her portraits encapsulate the sensuality and beauty of the disabled body by unapologetically illustrating the physical differences that are often categorized as unattractive. In her 2020 memoir, Golem Girl, Lehker constructs an understanding of her identity as a bisexual, disabled, Jewish woman. She uses the religious imagery of a 'golem' as a metaphor for her disability and her relationship with her body. The novel illustrates how she found freedom, liberation, and acceptance of herself, and her spina bifida, through her art; exploring the power and intimacy and beauty of radical identities, strange bodies, and building a life as a disabled person in spite of the expectations of others.

Golem Girl: A Memoir

By Riva Lehrer

"I am a Golem. My body was built by human hands. And yet— If I once was monere, I’m turning myself into monstrare: one who unveils."

  • Red - physical disabilities
  • Yellow - Neurodivergence
  • White - Invisible or Undiagnosed Disabilities
  • Blue - Emotion & Physicatric Disabilities
  • Green - Sensory Disabilities (Deaf/Blindness)

The disability pride flag was created in 2019 by Ann Magill, writer and cerebral palsy activist, as part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) where she was disappointed by the lack of visibility and community for disabled people. The original design of the flag featured zig-zag stripes that were meant to represent how people with disabilities overcame the challenges of inaccessibility. However, the original design was a visual trigger for people who experience photosensitivity, such as epilepsy. The updated, accessible version of the flag debuted in 2021.

Disability Pride Flag

Between Two Kingdoms

Suleika Jaouad's 2021 Memoir Between Two Kingdoms outlines her life as it was impacted by a Leukemia diagnosis when she was in her early 20s. The novel grapples with the complexities of disabled identity, relationships, intimacy and how illness builds new frameworks for life as you know it. While Suleika was battling cancer she wrote a column for the New York Times titled 'Life, Interrupted' where she documented her experiences as a young person going through cancer treatment. The blog exploded in popularity, which led to Jaouad connecting with people who experience illness, disability, and grief all across the country, empowering her to share their stories. She has continued to foster community through her online newsletter 'The Isolation Journals', in which she empowers others to find creativity and identity in the isolation that disabled people experience.

By Suleika Jaouad

I used to think healing meant ridding the body and the heart of anything that hurt. It meant putting your pain behind you, leaving it in the past. But I’m learning that’s not how it works. Healing is figuring out how to coexist with the pain that will always live inside of you, without pretending it isn’t there or allowing it to hijack your day. It is learning to confront ghosts and to carry what lingers.

Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw

Eddie Ngopu's memoir Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw explores his identity as a queer, disabled, person of color and how those factors of his identity color the standard of success that he is expected to achieve. He highlights his experience of navigating inaccessible spaces, finding success, and coping with the isolation that marginalized communities and individuals face in primarily white, cis-het, able-bodied spaces. He reminds his audience that success and power doesn't look any certain way and disabled people can achieve just as much as their able-bodied peers. Ngopu is a global humanitarian who was appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations to represent and advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals.

"I need to dream bigger than my circumstances."

By Eddie Ndopu

The First Disability Pride Parade Chicago, IL

July 2004

The first disability pride parade took place in Chicago in 2004. The grand marshall of the event was ADA activist, Yoshiko Dart. The goal of the parade was to cultivate a community for disabled people and promote the idea that disability is a natural part of life and shouldn't be an object of stigma and shame, but a part of identity that should be celebrated.

Robert McRuer is known to be one of the foundational scholars in the field of disability theory. This novel defined a new perspective called 'Crip Theory', which looks to the reclamation of the queer in 90's activism work as an example for reclaiming 'crip' as a term for the disabled community in action of radical activism. This became the basis for much further research by other scholars using the framework and ideology that McRuer outlines. He outlines the idea of 'compulsory heterosexuality' as it relates to 'compulsory able-bodiness' or the assumption that appearing physically "normal" applies the assumed or default identities to you, which creates both queerness and disability to be defined as something that strays from the natural order. This concept of 'dominant identities' being compulsory is something that is explored heavily in queer and disabled rhetoric.

Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability

By Robert McRuer 2006

"The disability to come, likewise, perhaps, will and should always BELONG TO the time of the promise—the promise to Pavel and McBryde Johnson, to global bodies, to specters of disability in the borderlands or elsewhere. It’s a crip promise that we will always comprehend disability OTHERWISE AND that we will, collectively, somehow access other worlds and futures"

McRuer, Robert, and Michael Bérubé. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability New York University Press, 2006.

In 2020, the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation came together to create the Disability Futures Fellowship which is an interdisciplinary scholarship that seeks to uplift the voices of disabled artists in fields such as journalism, art, culture, film, etc. This fellowship sought to minimize the gap in opportunity between able-bodied and disabled voices by providing financial support and professional development opportunities to disabled artists and creatives. This is the first significant national grant to provide those opportunities and encourage the empowerment of disabled artists and narratives.

The Disability Futures Fellowship

2020 Fellows

Navild (Niv) Acosta

Eli Clare

Patty Berne

Ryan J. Haddad

Christine Sun Kim

Sky Cubacub

Perel

Riva Lehrer

CONCLUSION

What is the significance of this? My hope is that by taking the time to understand the stories of people with intersectional marginalized identities we are able to build a culture of empathy that strives towards increased equality and accessibility for all people and eliminates some of the harmful stereotypes and ideas that surround disabled and queer identities.

Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability & Queerness

By Eli Clare

Eli Clare is a writer, poet, and activist who writes about his experience as a trans/genderqueer person with a disability. In his writing, he talks about the radical act of reclaiming your body and overcoming the teachings of shame and stigma that are ingrained in disabled people due to the prevalence of ableist rhetoric. His work proposes a shift in the disability activism movement, reorienting the focus to combatting social inaccessibility, rather than understanding disability as something that fundamentally requires a cure. Clare compares the experiences of homophobia, both socially and internalized, to be similar to accepting disability as part of identity and embracing the facets of identity that make you 'irrevocably different'.

"In the end, I am asking that we pay attention to our bodies—our stolen bodies and our reclaimed bodies. To the wisdom that tells us the causes of the injustice we face lie outside our bodies, and also to the profound relationships our bodies have to that injustice, to the ways our identities are inextricably linked to our bodies."

Clare, Eli. “Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness.” Public Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, 2001, pp. 359–366, https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-13-3-359.

In her 2003 article, disability scholar Ellen Samuels analyzes the concept of 'coming out' as it relates both to queer and disabled identities. Samuels suggests a new discourse on identity that is less reliant on visible markers of difference but on self-identification and community. These ideas are broken down through a thorough comparison of invisible versus visible disabilities and how those same ideas of physicality can be applied to issues of race ethnicity and sexuality. Included are first-hand accounts from individuals who experience intersectional identities (i.e. queer & latine) discussing their experience subverting social expectations and finding identity in the in-between.

My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability & The Limits of Coming Out Culture

By Ellen Jean Samuels

Samuels, Ellen Jean. “My Body, My Closet: Invisible Disability and the Limits of Coming-Out Discourse.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 233-255, Duke Univerity Press, 2003.

"In the dominant cultural discourse, as well as in lesbian and disability subcultures, certain assumptions about the correlation between appearance and identity have resulted in an often exclusive focus on visibility as both the basis of community and the means of enacting socialchange."

Image by Rachel Gadsden Disabled artist & activist

The National Disability Day of Morning was founded in 2012 to serve as a candlelight vigil in remembrance of all of the victims of filicide. Filicide within the disabled community is defined as the act of a parent or caregiver murdering their child or dependent with a disability. It is estimated that in the last five years, over 550 people with disabilities have been victims of filicide in the U.S. The day of mourning began as a way to combat the media attention surrounding the murders, which often sympathizes with the abuser following the idea that taking care of a disabled person is so difficult that they are valid in the actions they committed. The day of mourning continues to be an annual event, as filicide is still a prevalent issue, with vigils held in cities nationwide.

Disability Day of Mourning

March 2012

An altruistic filicide means that the parent or caretaker claimed to be murdering their dependent 'in their best interest'. Perpetuating the idea that disability has such an impact on quality of life that disabled people are 'better off dead'.

The Road to Freedom Bus Tour was founded in Washington, D.C. in 2005 and was launched as a year-long cross country exhibit that traveled to all 50 states in order to spread awareness of what American life was like for people who live with disabilities. An important part of the mission was to inform people of the ongoing fight for accessibility, equitable healthcare and treatment, transportation, employment, etc. This was accomplished by portraying the process that led to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) . The exhibit featured heavily, the photography of Tom Olin, a photojournalist and disability rights activist, as well as other artifacts central to the civil rights and justice movement.

The Road to Freedom: Keeping the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act

November 2005

The tour centered on the tagline, "Keeping the Promise of the Americans with Disability Act". But what exactly was it that the ADA had promised that was so important to instigate a nation-wide tour? The promise was to protect the rights of people with disabilities and make the American Dream a more accessible reality. The hope was to bring light to the disabled experience and rid them of the label of the 'forgotten population'.

Amongst the battle for civil rights and justice for all marginalized communities, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to pass legislation legalizing and protecting the rights of same-sex marriage. This sparked what would become a 10-year-long battle to get marriage equality rights passed on a federal level.

May 2004